Tamil Nadu

High Court seeks Centre’s response to PIL on hydrocarbons

Petitioner says Centre formed rules

The Madras High Court on Thursday sought the response of the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas as well as the Directorate-General of Hydrocarbons to a public interest litigation petition filed against the grant of licence to two private firms based in Bengaluru and Mumbai for exploration of hydrocarbons from Neduvasal in Pudukottai district and Karaikal in Puducherry.

Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and N. Seshasayee ordered notices, returnable by November 7, to the respondents on the PIL petition filed by G. Sundarrajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal, a registered public trust. The court also permitted the petitioner’s counsel M. Radhakrishnan and M. Vetri Selvan to issue private notices to the two firms to which the licences had been granted.

In his affidavit, the petitioner pointed out that the Centre had framed The Petroleum and Natural Gas Rules of 1959 in exercise of powers conferred on it under Sections 5 and 6 of the Oilfields (Regulation and Development) Act of 1948. Rule 3(k) of the 1959 rules originally defined the term ‘petroleum’ to mean naturally occurring hydrocarbons in a free state.

However, the term was amended with effect from July 24, 2018, and the words ‘free state’ were removed from the definition. In the meantime, the Union Cabinet had approved a Marginal Field Policy (MFP) in October 2015 for grant of licence to contractors to explore shale gas/oil, tight gas, gas hydrates and so on which were not available in a free state.

Claiming that the MFP was actually in conflict with the definition which prevailed at that point of time and it permitted exploration of an array of conventional as well as unconventional oil and gas resources, including those to be identified in the future, the petitioner urged the court to declare it as illegal, null and void.

Pursuant to the approval of MFP, licences were granted in respect of 31 approved contract areas which included 23 inland and eight offshore areas. However, no condition was laid that exploration of hydrocarbons should be done only by of drilling or boring as required under the 1959 rules.

In the absence of such a condition, there was a threat of extraction of hydrocarbon resources by means of any latest technology including hydraulic fracking, which involves use of chemicals, the petitioner feared.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 11:19:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/high-court-seeks-centres-response-to-pil-on-hydrocarbons/article29403631.ece

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